Stockton’s UOP partners with Tesla on 5MW solar carport project

The latest in Stockton renewable energy news? 

Solar carports are now shading eight parking lots at the University of the Pacific’s (UOP or “Pacific”) Stockton campus and anticipated to generate 30% of the university’s energy. The 5.3 megawatt (MW) project, which UOP worked with Tesla on, also includes 1 MW of battery storage and 16 electric vehicle charging ports.

This effort is a great example of the kinds of small-scale distributed generation projects Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) across the state are investing in as collaborators, coordinators, and customers. CCA allows local governments to buy electricity at competitive rates on behalf of residents and businesses, while the investor-owned utility continues to provide delivery services. With the City of Stockton currently in the process of evaluating whether to establish or join a CCA, UOP’s solar project could be seen as a potential prelude to the local renewable energy development a future Community Choice agency could bring to the area. For more context, check out this list of both small- and utility-scale renewable energy projects CCAs have initiated in California.

Notably, UOP will be among the top 5 generators of energy from on-site solar PV in the nation, according to Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System reports

The university estimates the new solar arrays will generate the electricity equivalent of removing over 1,000 cars from the road every year, provide the equivalent energy use for over 650 homes annually, and reduce over 5,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) annually. That’s a sliver of what it’ll take to reach net-negative emissions by 2030 and secure climate-resilient communities, as called for in The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign, but every metric ton of GHGs we prevent from trapping heat in the atmosphere moves us closer to that goal.

As an added benefit, the widespread shade from the towering carports is already having a noticeable cooling effect that makes a stroll through the beautiful campus that much more enjoyable and keeps cars from baking in the sun. Stockton summers are already hot, and with the number of extreme heat days in the city expected to rise significantly throughout the century due to climate change, students, staff, and visitors will likely appreciate the shade. 

“One of the unanticipated benefits is how positively everyone is responding to it,” says Jessica Bilecki, UOP’s sustainability director and project lead. “People are excited to see Pacific moving in this direction. It’s nice to have the visual showing the steps we are taking to reduce emissions.”

Pacific is currently drafting a sustainability plan to establish measurable goals for renewable energy procurement and energy conservation, according to Bilecki. The new solar structures will also provide experiential learning opportunities for students, who will have access to solar generation data for assessment. 

A feasibility study released earlier this year found that a Stockton CCA could offer considerable job creation opportunities in renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, both of which will be critical for mitigating climate change. 

In forming or joining a CCA, Stockton would be taking the same steps that over 180 California cities and 20 counties already have. The state’s 24 CCAs have collectively invested in 6,000+ MW of new renewable energy infrastructure, creating thousands of construction jobs in the process. They’re now serving over 11 million customers with cleaner energy at rates competitive with or lower than the existing utility in their service areas.

Los Angeles Smog by Massimo Catarinella

Choking on fumes: Diesel generators are booming with state funding

In a state that takes pride in claiming to be a world leader in technology and reducing carbon emissions, state and local government decision-makers in California have taken a giant step backward in funding diesel back-up generators to mitigate for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). 

In recent years, power shutoffs have cost California billions of dollars. Unfortunately, too much of the State’s response to date has focused funding on archaic and polluting fossil generators, which have lower upfront costs than clean energy solutions, but higher operating costs, as well as higher costs to public health from air pollution.

Governor Newson correctly laid the blame for power shutoffs on investor-owned utility PG&E for failing to maintain infrastructure. In initially announcing power shutoff mitigation efforts, Governor Newsom said, “For decades, they have placed greed before public safety. We must do everything we can to support Californians, especially those most vulnerable to these events. These funds will help local governments address these events and assist their most vulnerable residents.”   

The recently-completed 2019-20 Legislative Report on the use of $75 million in allocations made to support state and local efforts to mitigate power shutoff events explains how most of the money has been spent: on diesel generators. And except for about $100,000 that Alameda County used to purchase 96 1000-watt personal back-up battery power packs to loan to people reliant on electric-powered medical-support, very little was reported to have been spent by governments to “assist their most vulnerable residents.” 

All 58 counties received $26 million in total, of which $16 million went for fossil-fuel generators and the fuel tanks and controls to operate them. Only one county, Imperial, bought a solar-plus-battery system for $100,000 instead of generators.

As for the 39 cities that were allocated $10 million, $7.3 million went for fossil-fuel generators, fuel tanks and controls. Three cities bought solar-plus-batteries and no generators. They were American Canyon, $300,000; Orinda, 217,417, and Willits, $149,000 (with a population of 4,893). These cities should be commended for their leadership.

Out of $35 million allocated for state agencies, more than $20 million was spent on generators, only $562,500 on solar-plus-batteries.  

The growing use of diesel generators following recent climate change-exacerbated fires is extremely troubling. At a January California Energy Commission workshop on alternatives to diesel, the Climate Advisor to the Bay Area Air Quality District (BAAQMD) reported that highly energy-dependent businesses such as data centers have already added an additional 1000 Megawatts of new diesel generation just in the Bay Area with another 1500 Megawatts expected to come online, further adding to the roughly 80,000 MW statewide that existed in 2018 prior to the devastating 2019 and 2020 PSPS events.  

Diesel generators do not need permits if they are 50 horsepower or less and BAAQMD has no idea how many of those exist. But they have permitted 10,000 diesel generators in the Bay Area district and are finding they are used more than previously thought.  

California’s state and local leaders can and must do better.

That’s why last year The Climate Center launched an initiative for equitable clean and smart microgrids to build Community Energy Resilience. And we are partnering with lawmakers on legislation that supports equitable access to reliable and safe clean energy solutions.  

Learn about these bills and take action today.

As public dollars are invested to enhance resilience, state and local policymakers should focus on clean energy resilience (which can be cheaper over their lifespan than diesel generators) and should focus on prioritizing energy resilience for California’s most vulnerable communities.   

 

Equitable clean energy– support this new bill

Technology and market trends of this moment are laying the groundwork for a clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe electricity grid in California. Unfortunately, our laws are sabotaging us.

The failings of our archaic electrical system, which ignited many of California’s recent wildfires, are causing homeowners, businesses, hospitals, firefighters, and others to buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators– increasing emissions that drive climate change and making fires worse.

Right now California regulators are considering new contracts for fossil fuel-powered plants in response to last summer’s blackouts. This is a big step in the wrong direction.

Instead, California policy should help local governments and stakeholders develop clean energy resilience plans that address climate change while prioritizing our most vulnerable communities.

Senate Bill 99, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd and sponsored by The Climate Center, will help local governments do just that by providing them with the technical tools and support to develop their own community energy resilience plans, rather than relying on investor-owned utilities.

While many wealthier communities have access to clean energy and energy storage, California can and must prioritize equitable access to clean energy resilience for communities that suffer most from air pollution and power outages. Senate Bill 99 prioritizes support for these communities.

Support Senate Bill 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act now.

The technology needed to create this new decentralized energy future is available now. The energy storage industry is booming with microgrid projects proliferating and an accelerated transition to electric vehicles globally.

General Motors’ recent announcement committing to selling only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 and President Biden’s plan for an all-electric federal fleet present the possibility of quickly scaling up electric vehicle adoption and thus, battery storage for energy resilience.

Support The Climate Center’s policy leadership to secure local clean energy and storage.

Automakers and charging infrastructure manufacturers are already developing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology which could be used by utilities to minimize power outages and effectively capture, store and send solar energy back to the grid during peak demand hours.

For example, if all of California’s 24,000 school buses were electric and able to discharge energy to the electric grid during peak hours, we could substantially reduce chances of blackouts, help fight climate change, and avoid local air pollution, all at the same time.

Help us secure policies like SB99 for equitable community energy resilience!

To achieve widespread adoption of clean energy microgrids, our state’s broken regulations must be fixed. New forward-thinking policies can ensure that every community can install renewables and storage where they need it most.

The Climate Center is working with diverse partners across the state to secure the needed policies for equitable access to resilient clean energy.

Make a donation todaysupport Senate Bill 99, and if you haven’t already, endorse Climate-Safe California!

With gratitude,

Ellie

Ellie Cohen, CEO

California 550 MW virtual power plant would be the biggest yet

by Dan Gearino, InsideClimateNews


Highlights

  • Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners and OlmConnect have collaborated on a virtual power plant project titled Resi-Station
  • Resi-Station would use batteries at homes and businesses in California to act like a 550-megawatt power plant, becoming the largest virtual power plant in the world
  • This power can be used as backup in the case of power shut-offs, wildfire risks, and other outages
  • The project kicks off in 2021, starting with 150,000 OlmConnect customers and should be fully built by 2023

Community Energy Resilience through clean energy microgrids is a key pillar in The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Campaign.


Read More: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/10122020/inside-clean-energy-fossil-fuel-power-plants/

New solar farm at landfill to save San Joaquin County on energy costs

A local Community Choice Energy program could keep the ball rolling

A new solar farm at Foothill Landfill in Linden has hummed to life, offering $11.9 million in energy cost savings and 5.3MW of clean energy for the San Joaquin County government departments over the next 20 years. It’s a promising development as the City of Stockton explores launching a Community Choice Energy program to offer cleaner energy at competitive rates. Will San Joaquin County be next?

The county’s solar project

About five years ago, the county Board of Supervisors approved a power purchase agreement (PPA) and a lease for Ameresco Inc. to build a ground-mount solar photovoltaic system at the landfill. Following permitting delays and uncertainty over PG&E rates, the board approved amendments to the PPA and lease in 2018 to push the project forward. Construction was completed Nov. 17, 2020. 

Ameresco installed 13,770 solar modules rated at 385W-DC each, as well as 29 solar inverters rated at 125kW-AC each, enough to power over 800 homes, the company announced in a press release. The solar arrays were built on a portion of the landfill that will be unneeded for waste disposal for at least the next 25 years. The new facility is the second project the county has worked with Ameresco on at the site, the other being a 4.3 MW landfill gas to energy project.

With the new generation site, county departments are estimated to collectively save approximately $11.9 million in energy costs over the next 20 years via California’s Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer program. San Joaquin General Hospital is set to receive 51% of the savings resulting from the facility, with the rest divided among the Human Services Agency, Sheriff’s Office, Health Care Services, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation budgets. As an added bonus, the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund received an up-front lease payment of $500,000 upon completion of the project.

County Supervisors Kathy Miller and Chuck Winn were quoted in the press release touting the economic and environmental benefits of investing in renewable energy development.

“San Joaquin County, and its local communities, have long prioritized the development of renewable energy resources, both for reducing emissions and supplementing existing electricity generation,” said Chair Kathy Miller. “In addition to its environmental impact, the solar energy system will provide further utility cost savings to our region, which will directly benefit residents and local governments’ ability to better serve its constituents.”

Winn stated, “As a leader in green energy, San Joaquin County is always looking for ways to provide an improved environment for our residents while at the same time providing cost savings to taxpayers.”

Check out this video to learn more about the project.

A Community Choice Energy program could ramp up local renewable energy development

We’re encouraged to see local, innovative investment in renewable energy, and we hope the county’s next move will be to evaluate Community Choice Energy, as the City of Stockton and more than 160 other California cities have done. 

When Ameresco’s lease at the landfill site is up with the county two decades from now, the solar farm will become the property of the county. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to own that electricity and continue to build local capacity rather than selling it to another area? A Community Choice agency would make that possible.

By taking the steps to procure power on behalf of residents and businesses at competitive rates, San Joaquin County could take a lead role in coordinating renewable energy projects across its 900,000-plus acres of land. That could include initiating large-scale and small-scale solar projects, using vacant parcels, rooftops and parking lots with the potential of bringing jobs to the area. Given that Community Choice agencies (CCAs) are not-for-profit entities operated by the local government, more of the benefits of such projects can be retained in the San Joaquin County community.

Numerous other benefits CCAs have provided around the state are reasons to pursue the program as well. Those include support for electric vehicles, innovative energy storage projects, bringing residents a voice and a choice in local energy decisions, generating reserve funds that can be reinvested into the community through tailored programs, and offering competitive power generation rates, among others. Community Choice Energy is precisely the kind of economic innovation the county should be pursuing in its post-COVID roadmap.

The Climate Center recently co-hosted a business forum with The San Joaquin Partnership to provide the Stockton business community with information and updates about the City’s ongoing evaluation of launching a CCA. You can view the recording of that forum here to learn more about Community Choice Energy opportunities in Stockton and San Joaquin County.

The first major long-duration storage procurement has arrived


Highlights

  • Eight of California’s community choice agencies have published a request for offers seeking 500 megawatts of long-duration storage capacity, helping the state meet its need for 1 gigawatt of long-duration storage by 2026
  • Long-duration storage allows resources like wind and solar to provide power for longer periods of time
  • There is no firm definition of what “long-duration” storage can be, but examples range from 4 to 150 hours
  • Eligible projects must provide at least 50 megawatts of power capacity, be able to provide power for 8 hours, and be functional by 2026
  • California needs 40 gigawatts of long-duration storage by 2045 in order to meet the states carbon-free electricity goals

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. The Climate Center has helped Community Choice expand throughout the state, resulting in cleaner energy for 11 million Californians.


Read More: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-first-long-duration-storage-procurement-has-arrived

Rocky Mountain Institute study shows renewables are kicking natural gas to the curb

by Steve Hanley, Clean Technica


Highlights

  • New research from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) shows that renewable energy is leading natural gas as the preferred choice of new electricity generation 
  • The study looks at energy projects from two of America’s largest electricity markets — ERCOT and PJM
  • RMI argues that there should be a shift away from utility monopolies and an embrace of open competition 
  • Over the past two years, there has been a transition away from building new gas fired plants towards more renewable energy projects as they are performing better within electricity markets 
  • Since 2018 the demand for clean energy projects has doubled while gas project demands have been cut in half, leaving over $30 billion worth of gas projects canceled or abandoned 
  • Voting in climate champions will promote federal policies that prioritize clean energy and help appoint the right people into government agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 

Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement massive reductions of warming emissions and begin a drawdown of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the atmosphere over the decade ahead.  For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://cleantechnica.com/2020/10/03/rocky-mountain-institute-study-shows-renewables-are-kicking-natural-gas-to-the-curb/

U.S. clean power giants to join forces to build lobbying muscle

by Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg


Highlights

  • A new lobbying organization named the American Clean Power Association has formed in order to advocate for more renewable policies
  • The country’s top wind power trade group is teaming up with some big-name energy groups such as NextEra Energy, Avangrid, and Berkshire Hathaway Energy to form this association
  • The renewables industry spent less than $18 million on lobbying in 2019, while the fossil fuel industry spent $104 million
  • The Association aims to make renewables such as wind and solar the USA’s primary power source by prioritizing environmental policy, market reform and grid modernization

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read More: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-03/u-s-clean-power-giants-to-join-forces-to-build-lobbying-muscle?sref=ABTRBDIh

Blackouts: Let’s build reliable clean power

“One factor that did not cause the rotating outage: California’s commitment to clean energy. Renewable energy did not cause the rotating outages.” That’s right, California’s climate policies and clean energy goals did not cause the state’s recent blackouts, as the three lead California energy agencies wrote in a letter to the Governor and the Legislature in August.

The solution to periods of high demand for electricity such as during heatwaves has historically been to increase supply. California Public Utilities Commission current rules require utilities to buy 15% excess energy capacity beyond what they would need during the forecast peaks for a given time of year. This approach failed us in August.

A 21st-century clean, reliable, safe, and equitable energy system can make the difference.

Clean energy community microgrids can enable utilities to better target specific outages and to isolate local electricity generation from the larger grid. This would ensure that essential governmental, health, and other services would remain powered in communities during outages.

As I wrote in The Climate Center’s op-ed published this past Sunday in the Sacramento Bee, “With wildfire season fully upon us, more power shutoffs leaving Californians in the dark are imminent. Add an economic crisis and a pandemic and it’s clear there is no time to lose.”

Sadly, PG&E’s approach to reliable power this year has included dirty diesel back-up generators that exacerbate climate change and create air pollution making us all more vulnerable to COVID– while not actually ensuring a stable grid.

Ironically, the first day that the blackouts hit, August 14, was also a deadline for formal comments on microgrids at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which regulates utilities such as PG&E. The Climate Center recently filed comments with Vote Solar urging the CPUC to fast-track its current rulemaking to open up microgrid markets and prioritize clean energy resilience for lower-income communities in particular.

We also have the technology right now to automatically reduce electricity use on the grid. Pre-agreements with large commercial and industrial customers can ensure that power is made available when needed to keep the system stable. Customers can even get paid to allow it, which is already happening in some places. The August blackouts were the result of a one-gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) shortfall, but this approach has been estimated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to have the potential to free up over 4 gigawatts for California.

The dramatic climate impacts we are seeing right now here in California are further evidence of the urgency to act on the climate crisis. Please join us in supporting Community Energy Resilience and endorse Climate-Safe California today. Our science-based goal is to achieve net-negative emissions and the start of drawdown by 2030 in California, inspiring our country and the world to accelerated climate action.

To date, we have over 500 endorsements including businesses, non-profits, individuals, and government officials (see more here). Join us to help us exceed 1000 endorsements by December before the next session of the state legislature. Share this with your family, friends, and colleagues, and ask them to endorse and engage.

Together we will build the power required to secure a just transition to a climate-safe, equitable future for all.